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Former Goretti star Wills remembered as tough, gentle

February 23, 2008|By LARRY YANOS

Many consider Bill Wills one of the greatest basketball players in the history of St. Maria Goretti High School.

Wills, who died Saturday in Berlin, Md., at age 66, was known by his friends as a tough competitor, but a gentle man.

He was inducted into the Washington County Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 for his numerous accomplishments in high school and college.

Denny Fearnow was in the starting basketball lineup with Wills, while his brother Gary, only a freshman at the time, watched from the bench after competing with the junior varsity squad.

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"I had the best seat in the house watching Bill perform," Gary Fearnow said. "He was a tremendous athlete and was an icon at St. Maria Goretti.

He accomplished so many things in his years there, but I still remember the 1959-1960 season when we upset North Hagerstown High School in one of the last games of the season. We both finished 19-1 that year.

"They beat us early in the season at the Armory and then we returned the favor at North High. It was a nailbiter and Bill, as usual, contributed many clutch baskets. He was just a very gifted athlete. I saw him a few years ago and he looked more trim then what he did in high school."

Denny Fearnow joined Wills on the starting five his junior year and said it was a season to remember.

"Rome Schwagel was the coach, Eddie Mumma and I were juniors and Bill, John Nussear and Mike Keller were seniors. We had a terrific season and Bill was the go-to guy. He was the ultimate at the time, the finest high school basketball player I was ever associated with. Those games against North High were classics.

"They beat us by 6-7 points the first time and then we returned the favor. The gyms were packed for both games, standing room only. Bill was a versatile athlete. All members of the starting five played baseball as well, Bill was a third baseman and a pitcher. He also played some football in college."

"Bill was an excellent basketball player," former high school and college hoop official Bill Lightner said. "I worked some games at St. Maria

Goretti and also his first game at Shepherd College. He was always a gentleman on the court and I never had any problems with him. He played hard and never complained about anything."

"I knew Bill from our days of living near each other in Smithsburg," current St. Maria Goretti basketball coach Cokey Robertson said. "My daughter and his daughter were close friends and we attended many sporting events together. I also played with him later in the Hub City Basketball League."'

Robertson, who is retiring from coaching at the end of the season, has seen a few quality players in his day, but considers Wills as one of the finest to ever don a St. Maria Goretti uniform.

"You would have to put him right there with Rodney Monroe and Dave Russell," Robertson said. "He was a tremendous player. His nephew, Tommy, played for me at St. Maria, as well."

Wills is survived by his wife of 44 years, Terrie LeGore Wills, and daughters Barbara Jean Ancarrow and Carol Ann Crabtree, both of Fairfield, Pa.

After high school, he attended Middle Tennessee State University and Shepherd College.

A gathering of family and friends will be held today from 2 to 4 p.m. at Burbage Funeral Home, 108 William St., in Berlin.

A Celebration of Life will be held in Hagerstown, in March. Service date and times will be announced at a later date. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in the name of William J. Wills III to Coastal Hospice, P.O. Box 1733, Salisbury, Md., 21802.

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